THE RHODES SCHOLAR – 01.03.2018: The Feud of the Century

By Tony Cline, Columnist

It all started on October 20, 2017 at 8:32pm EDT. A Twitter user who goes by Canadian Geoff posted a seemingly innocuous message to the social media platform. Geoff, it seems, had just watched the third installment of Kenny Omega’s series of matches with Kazuchika Okada and he thought that Omega was the best wrestler in the world. Chris Jericho replied to the tweet, which prompted a reply from Kenny Omega, and the rivalry that has taken the professional world by storm was born.

The Twitter battle raged on until the early hours of October 29, when Omega tweeted, “Twitter angles are fun, but it’s just a lot of talk with absolutely no pay off. You’re there, I’m here. No more free publicity. Case closed.” Then, Twitter went silent on this feud, and wrestling fans around the world were left to wonder about what might have been.

However, just a week later, we all learned there would be more…much more. In the co-main event of Power Struggle, Kenny Omega successfully defended his IWGP United States Championship against Trent Barreta. After dispatching his opponent, Omega grabbed a microphone and began to deliver a promo. During the promo, the lights went out and a video began playing on the big screen…a video that contained Chris Jericho, dubbing himself “The Alpha” and demanding a match against Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12.

The wrestling world was abuzz about the challenge and the match. Jericho created an “Alpha Club” t-shirt for fans which mocked the Bullet Club and Omega. The two sparred a bit more on social media and in interviews with multiple outlets. Then came the World Tag League.

At the World Tag League Finals, after being joining the Young Bucks in a six-man match against Rappongi 3K and Rocky Romero, Omega was strutting in the ringing showing off his title belt when the lights went dark again and a video played. This time when the lights came back up, Jericho stood in the ring behind Omega…and proceeded to batter him until he bled profusely.

This surprise and violent attack again gained the attention of the entire wrestling world, and it was followed up the next day by Omega attacking Jericho at a press conference in Japan.

The feud will conclude tomorrow in the Tokyo Dome as Omega defends his US title against the Alpha.

Now, some of you are probably accusing me of hyperbole for calling this the feud of the century. After all, the century is still fairly young. Besides, could Alpha vs. Omega possibly live up, especially in one match, to the trilogy we have thus far witnessed from Omega and Okada? No, probably not, at least in terms of in-ring performance. However, that doesn’t make my designation hyperbole. It just means you have to look deeper to see why this feud is so important.

Alpha vs. Omega is the feud of the century because of the feud and how it was built more than anything they could have done in the ring. First, after planning this feud, the participants did not jump on television and contrive a feud out of nowhere. They certainly could have done so, but the rivalry would have had much less power than the seemingly organic one that took root on social media. Instead of another tired, contrived angle that another major promotion may have created for such a feud, these guys waited for an opportunity to present itself then took to social media build a seemingly organic dislike for one another that left even seasoned fans that were sure it must be a work still wondering a little in the back of their minds. This is the hallmark of any truly great wrestling angle, and they conducted it brilliantly. Second, they executed a nearly perfect head fake with Omega calling an end to the Twitter war because they were in two different promotions and couldn’t wrestle anyway.

The third master move was to keep the truth out of the dirt sheets in the run up to Power Struggle. I mean, seriously, how many times have any of us been surprised by professional wrestling in the last decade? Less than you could count on one hand, I’d bet. However, the Jericho challenge for Wrestle Kingdom shocked EVERYONE. That’s why it became the media sensation that it did. Fourth, Jericho reinvented himself. He is not making stupid lists and being a semi-comedic act, the Alpha is a brutal heel, and the brutality of his attack on Kenny at World Tag League again took away our collective breaths and set the wrestling world buzzing.

I would probably have preferred kayfabe be protected a little more until after January 4, but I understand the need to give interviews and answer questions in order to gain viewers for the event. However, these two laid out the blueprint for how to create an amazing feud in the current age. They utilized social media, secrecy, and real surprises in a seamless storyline build that has riveted us all. They have built an excitement for WK12 among people who barely even knew NJPW existed 90 days ago. The genius displayed in creating and executing this feud is why it is the feud of the century. If some of their compatriots in the business learn the lessons Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho have so kindly taught them, being a wrestling fan will be much more enjoyable over the next decade than it has been over the last one.



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